- Francis Heylighen
Francis Heylighen (born 1960) is a
Belgiancyberneticist. He works as a research professor at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the Dutch-speaking Free University of Brussels, where he directs the transdisciplinary research group on "Evolution, Complexity and Cognition." ( [http://ecco.vub.ac.be/ ECCO] ).
His research focuses on the
emergenceand evolutionof complex, intelligent organization. Applications include the origin of life, the development of multicellular organisms, knowledge, culture, and societies, and the impact of information and communication technologies on future social evolution.
This impressive variety of ideas is held together by two basic principles. The relational principle notes that phenomena can only exist in relation (connection or distinction) to other phenomena, and thus only make sense as part of a complex network or system. The evolutionary principle notes that
variationthrough (re)combination of parts and natural selectionof the fitter combinations results in ever more complex and adaptive systems.
The two principles come together in Heylighen's concept of a distinction dynamics, which he first formulated in his PhD thesis (and later book), "Representation and Change". In Heylighen's analysis, classical scientific methodology is based on given, unchanging distinctions between elements or states. Therefore, it is intrinsically unable to model creative change. But the evolutionary principle makes distinctions dynamic, explaining the creation and destruction of relations, distinctions and connections, and thus helping us to understand how and why complexity emerges.
Cliff Joslynand Valentin Turchin, he is editor of the Principia CyberneticaProject, which is devoted to the collaborative development of an evolutionary-systemic philosophy. He created its website, the [http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ Principia Cybernetica Web] , in 1993, as one of the first complex webs in the world. It is still viewed as the most important site on cybernetics, systems theoryand related approaches.
Together with his PhD student Johan Bollen, in 1995 Heylighen was the first to propose algorithms that could turn the
world-wide webinto a self-organizing, learning network that exhibits collective intelligence, i.e. a Global brain. He is also one of the first to formulate a theory of memeticsthat can be empirically tested. He is one of the founders, and the present editor, of the [http://www.jom-emit.org Journal of Memetics] .
Heylighen's scientific work (he published over 90 papers and a book) covers an extremely wide range of subjects, exemplifying his intellectual curiosity and fundamentally transdisciplinary way of thinking. In addition to the topics mentioned above, subjects include the foundations of
quantum mechanics, the structure of space-time, hypermediainterfaces, the psychology of self-actualizationand happiness, the market mechanism, formality and contextuality in language, causality, and the measurement of social progress.
* [http://pcp.vub.ac.be/HEYL.html Francis Heylighen's] Homepage
* [http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/papers/CV-Heylighen.pdf. Francis Heylighen's] Curriculum Vitae, 2005.
* [http://www.goertzel.org/benzine/heylighenProfile.htm Francis Heylighen: Pioneer of the Global Brain] by
* [http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/ Principia Cybernetica Web]
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
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